Ministry of Presence, Amazing People and Cancer Patients

As a priest, I visit the sick very often in hospitals, senior centers, and in houses to administer the Sacraments.  Sometimes people (old and young) walk in the parish office to ask for guidance or they just ask to have some spiritual guidance.

Beside bringing God’s graces through the Sacraments, I practice the ministry of presence every time I can.  But what is Ministry of Presence?  I like the definition of Fr. Henri Nouwen, a renown theologian who writes in the book Compassion the following:

“More and more, the desire grows in me simply to walk around, greet people, enter their homes, sit on their doorsteps, play ball, throw water, and be known as someone who wants to live with them. It is a privilege to have the time to practice this simple ministry of presence. Still, it is not as simple as it seems. My own desire to be useful, to do something significant, or to be part of some impressive project is so strong that soon my time is taken up by meetings, conferences, study groups, and workshops that prevent me from walking the streets. It is difficult not to have plans, not to organize people around an urgent cause, and not to feel that you are working directly for social progress. But I wonder more and more if the first thing shouldn’t be to know people by name, to eat and drink with them, to listen to their stories and tell your own, and to let them know with words, handshakes, and hugs that you do not simply like them, but truly love them.”

One of the things that have caught my attention when I visit some cancer patients is that some of them have a wonderful smile.  How is possible that in the midst of suffering people is able to smile?  For me, the answer is God’s grace.  These cancer patients have great faith in the Lord, they are warriors.  They are able to see the beauty, the truth and the goodness of God in everything.

For instance, I visit a patient who prays continuously; she even creates some works of art in that prayer process.  It is amazing to see how men and women of faith can focus on the positive aspects of suffering.  We have the ability to take those hardships and difficulties in the light of Chris’s suffering, but most of the time is in sleeping mode.  When almost everybody complains almost about everything, there is a group of people who take suffering as a redeeming tool.

This year I lost two friends of cancer. One of them, I was not able to visit him because he was in Colombia, but I sent my family to visit him.  A few days after that visit he passed away.  Last month, one of my best friends who is an example of resilience fighting bone cancer for more than twenty years passed away.  I was able to be in his funeral Mass.  The church where the funeral was celebrated was full.  He was serving all the time even when he lost the ability to walk. It is important for me to continue practicing my listening skills.  I want to be present for everyone but a big parish is challenging.  I pray to the Lord so he can help me to be present and to have quality time with the sheep the Lord entrusted me.   Ministering with the presence of Christ is my priority.  I need your prayers too.

Psalm 16:11 “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at yosalm 16:11 “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”


2 thoughts on “Ministry of Presence, Amazing People and Cancer Patients

  1. Thank you Father Juan, I appreciate your inspiration on this subject. I have survived two cancer episodes in my life and I can honestly say that the Lord has blessed me greatly with survival and with learning experiences. Perhaps your friends had similar feelings? I no longer fear my cancer coming back. That doesn’t mean I want it to come back, but I think the Lord has given me the grace to face up to the danger. I feel confident he has other things for me to do. Hard to explain, but the fear of death is a challenge, only through Christ can I not fear it. If I ever have to face the reality of cancer again, I will recognize the pain that He endured/suffered for us, thankful that I’ve had his blessings before. Perhaps your friends had similar experiences, may they Rest In Peace. God bless, Rich……


  2. Father that is a struggle for all of us. You know your strengths and what others can do to handle the stuff less important to being with the community and being with families. I hope that others and our church can work together, step up so you can do what is more important. Prioritizing is hard. A personal struggle for me.

    Liked by 1 person

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